KIA PICANTO: SMALL BUT PERFECTLY FORMED
Kia's cheeky faced Picanto offers a winning combination of youthful styling, peppy performance, class-leading interior dimensions, low cost of ownership and unrivalled value, with prices starting at only £5,995.
Aimed squarely at 'about town' singles and couples in their late twenties - it has already proved a huge hit through its blend of compact external size and supermini-sized interior space. It is ideal for zipping your way through the high street, while providing all the refinement and space of a considerably larger car.
Its fresh styling fits in perfectly with Kia's young and sporty brand image. Unlike the majority of cars in its class, it has five doors for maximum practicality, yet it avoids the boxy, slim profile that is the price usually paid for five-door versatility in a small-car package.
Nor will you find the budget interior trim and minimalist specification of built-down-to-a-price, bottom-of-the-range small cars. But this exceptionally competitive pricing is not at the expense of safety or comfort - all versions have twin airbags, anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution, CD audio with MP3 player, and tinted glass.
Two four-cylinder petrol engines are available - a 60bhp 1.0-litre unit in the GS or a 64bhp 1.1 that offers customers the option of automatic transmission in the LS.
Both units make Picanto nimble and nippy, equally at home on the highway or in the city. They are also outstandingly economical, with combined fuel figures of more than 50mpg (manual versions) contributing towards low ownership costs.
Stephen Kitson, Communications Director at Kia Motors (UK) Ltd, said: "The Picanto meets the needs of a new and younger customer base for Kia and takes the brand to new heights in the UK. It is a modern, European-focused design that offers an involving driving experience coupled with high specifications and prices not previously seen on this style of car.
The full line-up and list pricing and insurance groups are:
Picanto 1.0 GS £5,995 2
Picanto 1.1 LS £6,595 3
Picanto 1.1 LS Auto £7,395 3
Metallic/Mica paint: £325
STYLING AND DESIGN
Small on the outside; big on the inside.the Kia Picanto is a European A-segment car, a mere 3.5 metres long, that can seat up to five in comfort, yet that is nimble in cities and able to slot into the smallest parking space.
The Picanto marks another step in Kia's drive to ensure the cars it sells in Europe are perfectly matched to European tastes. Customers for this type of car are typically budget conscious city dwellers, and a high proportion are women.
They appreciate the convenience of a small car, but are also influenced by styling and fashion.
Its external appearance is distinctive and fresh. Designed by Kang Lee, it features a trapezoidal radiator grille with bold vertical strips, and headlamps with multi-focus reflectors, giving it a cheeky, wide-eyed look.
Deep doors promise safety and protection, the high, curved roofline hints at the generous interior space, while the flick up at the rear of the side windows lends the car a dynamic appearance.
Compact dimensions also lend it excellent manoeuvrability and give the driver superb all-round visibility. This sense of control is enhanced by the stylish, ergonomic layout of the dash. Its two-tone finish - dark upper and pale lower - emphasises the spaciousness of the cabin and the quality of the fit and finish.
POWERTRAINS AND RUNNING GEAR
The Picanto offers buyers the option of two light and powerful petrol engines and smooth manual or automatic transmissions in a compact, fun-to-drive, front-wheel-drive package.
Short overhangs, independent suspension at all four corners and quick, precise steering add to its nimble character, while a tight turning circle and an overall length of only 3.5 metres make it a cinch to park in the most crowded city street.
It is also refined and comfortable at open-road speeds thanks to its light weight and powerful engines, and with 14-inch diameter wheels fitted as standard; it delivers a mature and composed ride.
Owners will find it is just as friendly on the wallet or purse. Manual versions easily top 40mpg in the urban test cycle and 50mpg in the combined test, and every model is in the lowest benefit-in-kind tax band for business users.
The 1.0-litre engine
GS models are powered by a 1.0-litre (999cc) four-cylinder single overhead camshaft 12-valve engine. With an aluminium cylinder head and oil pan, it is one of the lightest and most efficient petrol engines in the city car class. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are only 123g/km, while combined fuel consumption is 55.4mpg.
Small size does not mean small capabilities. The 1.0-litre engine develops 60bhp at 5600rpm and 64b ft of torque at a remarkably low 2900rpm in a car weighing less that 1,000 kg. With a slick five-speed manual gearbox to transmit drive to the front wheels, the 1.0-litre Picanto is capable of 0-62mph in 16.4 seconds, while a top speed of 93mph means it has plenty in reserve while running at the UK motorway limit of 70mph.
The 1.1-litre engine
Customers seeking a little more performance and cruising ability are offered the choice of a 1.1-litre engine in the LS version. This is a longer-stroke version of the 1.0-litre engine. Power rises to 64bhp at 5500rpm, while torque is increased to 72lb ft at 2800rpm. This is sufficient to take the five-speed manual version from 0-62 in 15.1 seconds, while the top speed increases to 96mph.
The LS provides customers with the option of an intelligent four-speed automatic gearbox that adjusts its shift patterns according to driving style, in place of the five-speed manual. In this case, the 0-62 time is 17.9 seconds and the top speed 90mph.
The combined fuel consumption of the 1.1-litre Picanto is 54.3mpg, or 48.7mpg as an automatic. Respective CO2 figures are 124 and 138g/km, which means that every model sits in the lowest (15%) benefit-in-kind company car-tax band.
The Picanto has been set-up to be nimble and easy to drive and park in cities, where it is expected to spend most of its life, but grown-up and refined when owners do venture further a field on faster roads.
Suspension is independent all round. Kia has opted for compact and reliable MacPherson struts at the front. A subframe supports the struts' lower arms, optimising wheel alignment and helping to absorb bumps. An anti-roll bar picks up on the shock absorber strut to help stabilise the car in corners and improve directional precision. At the rear, there are subframe-mounted twin trailing A-frame arms. Parallel coil springs and shock absorbers ensure a smooth ride while
minimising intrusion into the cargo area.
The power-assisted rack and pinion steering needs only 2.8 turns from lock to lock, reducing the amount of arm effort demanded from the driver in city streets, while a turning circle of 9.2 metres and an overall length of only 3.5 metres make the Picanto easy to manoeuvre and park.
All-round disc brakes, ventilated at the front, and generous 14-inch wheels ensure the Picanto stops just as capably as it goes. Anti-lock is standard, allowing the driver to steer around obstacles even when braking hard, while electronic brake force distribution apportions the stopping power between wheels for maximum braking efficiency.
THE INSIDE STORY
With Picanto, Kia made the bold decision to offer only a five-door car in a sector until recently dominated by three-door models.
Senior Product Manager, Ian Matthews explains: "Our belief is that a stylish five-door car, clearly differentiated from functional boxy designs, will be attractive to previous three-door customers in this sector as well as buyers of lower-end superminis.
"We are targeting predominantly singles and couples in their late twenties - the Sex and the City or Friends generation - but also young families and older couples."
The spacious interior is more reminiscent of that in the majority of superminis. In most cases the room it provides is best in class, while the generous specification and high-quality fit and finish ensure Picanto will delight people downsizing from ever-larger superminis as well as those trading up from the boxy cars that have traditionally dominated the city car sector.
Front headroom is an impressive 1003 mm while passengers in the rear are very well served with 966 mm. Front legroom is 1041mm (872 mm rear), and front shoulder room is 1290 mm (1292 mm rear).
The generous passenger space is enhanced by up to 19 storage areas around the cabin. The boot has a capacity of 157 litres with the rear seat in use, which means Picanto has more luggage space than the Mini, Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 or Peugeot 107. The boot expands to a maximum of 882 litres with the 60:40 split rear seat folded flat. This split rear seat offers up to seven different seating configurations.
Kia has managed to achieve exceptionally competitive pricing while maintaining strong specifications, especially in relation to safety.
Dual airbags and anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution are standard alongside high-tensile steel beams in each door to resist side impact forces, reinforced front and rear bumpers, child safety locks on the rear doors and three-point seatbelts for all five occupants. Front seat belt pretensioners are installed and all cars have height adjustable head restraints for front and rear occupants.
All models bar the entry-level 1.0 S have body coloured bumpers, mirrors and door handles; and front electric windows.
ABS with EBD, twin airbags plus a JVC CD audio with MP3 player are fitted throughout the range.
Air conditioning is fitted to 1.1-litre models.
Security is enhanced by central locking (remote on 1.1-litre versions), an immobiliser and remote releases for both the tailgate and the fuel filler flap.
The Picanto benefits from a three-year unlimited mileage manufacturer's warranty with three years' European roadside assistance.
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